With new owners incoming, the Minnesota Timberwolves wanted to make a splashy move. That cost them more than a few first-round picks.
Almost exactly one year ago, the Minnesota Timberwolves hired highly-touted Nuggets’ president of basketball operations, Tim Connelly, to run the team. New owners Alex Rodriguez and Marc Lore wanted to bring their own people in as they assumed control from majority owner Glen Taylor, and the Connelly move was widely praised in the media.
Connelly, whose success can be seen with the ascendance of the Denver Nuggets this year, was ordered to make a big move to catapult the Wolves from frisky young pups to true-blue contenders. He took that missive to heart.
Why don’t the Minnesota Timberwolves have a 2023 first-round pick?
The Wolves traded the farm, including their 2023 first-round pick, to the Utah Jazz for big man Rudy Gobert. They hoped Gobert’s historic defensive abilities would elevate offensive talents Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards. Minnesota was coming off an electric, entertaining, but ultimately losing effort in the first round against the second-seeded Memphis Grizzlies, and they wanted to speed up the timeline.
The Wolves didn’t give up just the 2023 pick, though. (Wolves fans, click away now.) They gave up everything:
• Malik Beasley
• Jarred Vanderbilt
• Patrick Beverley
• Leandro Bolmaro
• Rookie Walker Kessler
• 2023 first-round pick
• 2025 first-round pick
• 2026 pick swap
• 2027 first-round pick
• 2029 first-round pick
If that’s not the most significant trade package in history, it’s pretty close.
Unfortunately, KAT spent most of the season injured, and two of Minny’s top six players were hurt for their first-round series against Denver, so we don’t know what this team would have looked like at full strength. We barely even got to see Towns, Edwards, and Gobert on the floor together, so while most have deemed this one of the worst trades in NBA history, I’m reluctant to cast too much judgment this early.
There were plenty of positives. Gobert struggled early, but he acclimated to his teammates (particularly after the midseason addition of Mike Conley) and performed much better down the stretch. Edwards was an All-Star in just his third season, and he’ll enter next year hoping to enter the upper echelon of superstars. Towns should be much improved after a healthy offseason, and Jaden McDaniels became one of the best defenders in the league.
It’s natural for Minnesota fans to be disappointed, but they should enter next year with a fresh start and without the burden of expectations. Unlike some other teams without much future draft capital, the Wolves’ biggest stars are relatively young. Although Gobert is aging, Edwards and McDaniels aren’t even in their prime, and KAT is just 27. Banking on internal growth is dangerous, but Minnesota can be more optimistic than most in that regard.
And if all else fails…the Wolves could certainly get back at least some of their missing draft picks by unloading KAT. I believe they should give it one more go before it comes to that, but it wouldn’t be a terrible surprise if they assess where they are at midseason and decide to unload one of their Twin Towers.
It’s not all bleak for the Wolves. Just don’t remind your Minnesotan friends about Walker Kessler.
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